Ten Reasons I Like Writing With A Fountain Pen

  1. It’s shiny. Very shiny.
  2. The pen flows much more easily across the page. It just glides.
  3. You learn quickly not to chew on the end of it. Metal things are hard on the teeth.
  4. If you suck on the end, ink doesn’t go everywhere (though this is countered somewhat by the refilling process, which can cause ink to go all over your clothes if you do it wrong).
  5. There’s less waste. When the ink runs out, I can just refill it. All I have to buy is the ink, which comes in a glass bottle, which is recyclable. Beat that, ballpoint!
  6. It’ll last forever. It’s made of stainless steel and chrome. Unless I care for it very badly, it’ll outlast any other pen money can buy.
  7. It’s manly.
  8. It’s simple. I can understand all the parts. While I also understand all the parts in a computer and can tell you exactly what happens every time you hit a key on the keyboard, most people don’t. They could however have a good guess at how a fountain pen works (or a pencil, but hey, I don’t care about those).
  9. It impresses other people who like shiny things. I’m an egotistic bastard, and I like it when people are jealous of the things I have. A character flaw, but I don’t care.
  10. It just feels good.

Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Eat

Today, I’d like to talk briefly about water.

It’s one of the most amazing substances on earth, and also the one most taken for granted. It’s mind-bogglingly small. A single water molecule is made up of just three atoms. Two hydrogen, one oxygen. Of course, we never see it as just one molecule (outside a chemistry textbook, anyway). There’s actually an amazing amount of water on the planet. The oceans of the planet cover 71% of the surface of the earth to an average depth of 4 kilometres. That’s huge.

Unfortunately, due to the rampant consumerism in western countries, coupled with our love of dodgy waste disposal methods (and a bit of bad luck), the oceans are fast filling up with human rubbish. A single litre of oil can contaminate 8 million litres of sea water. That’s 8 million litres that isn’t suitable for aquatic life. Chris Jordan has some amazing photographs of sea birds who have stomachs full of junk. All the junk that ends up in our oceans (either deliberately or accidentally) takes a huge toll not only on aquatic animals, but on our future.

The trash we put into the ocean will slowly be crushed into minuscule pieces, which poison the tiny plankton (among other animals). Any animal that eats plankton is then affected by the lower populations, and it all works it’s way up the food chain until eventually we run out of fish because they have nothing to eat, and we all run out of fish and chips and have to eat chicken instead die.

So what can we all do about this salty, vinegary problem?

  • Firstly, we can put rubbish in it’s proper place. Rubbish in rubbish bins, recycling in recycling bins, compost in compost bins. Throwing plastic or cigarette butts out the car window is probably the worst thing you can do.
  • Secondly, whenever you see a rubbish bin somewhere (like a bus stop or a food court) that doesn’t have a matching recycling bin, ring up the relevant authority and complain.
  • Thirdly, cut down on the amount of plastic you consume. Plastic products take years and years to break down (if they aren’t recycled) and use up precious supplies of oil that we need so that I can drive to the beach and take a  swim in that lovely 71% of the planet.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2010, an annual event in the blogging community that brings global attention to a single issue.

Trip to Berlin: Part Four

This is part four of my trip to Berlin. For part three, click here. This is the wrap-up of the trip.

Firstly though, the trip home. It was a bog standard 40 hour plane trip, with the only two things of note the really nice girl I met in Singapore airport, and the delay on the last leg. Just after landing into Singapore airport for refuelling and so on, a girl (well, woman, about 25 or so) came up to me and asked if she could follow me because she didn’t understand what she was supposed to be doing (and I must admit, it was confusing). I said yes, and so together we trundled off the plane, looked lost in the middle of a big hall full of shops and no chairs, and then back into the gate through security. We talked, mostly about the country we were from (in my case, Australia, in hers, Serbia). She was travelling to Melbourne to meet her aunts and the rest of her extended family.

The Qantas flight from Melbourne to Hobart was delayed by the fact that the controls for the air conditioning in the cockpit weren’t working. As the pilot said, “we don’t care, but it’s not legal to fly”. The flight time from Melbourne to Hobart is 65 minutes, and we spent almost that much time in the plane on the ground. Apart from those things, and the crappy reruns on the in-flight “entertainment”, it was all fairly normal.

There are a lot of differences between Tasmania and Berlin that I’ve noticed. The first difference was in the public transport system. In Berlin, it’s functional. The trains and buses run perfectly on time at predictable intervals (3 minutes past the hour, 23 minutes past the hour, 43 minutes past the hour and so on for all of them), and are clean and always large enough. They only service the areas where it is profitable to run (not having bus stops and routes in the middle of nowhere). Compare that to Tasmania, where buses come at random times, don’t run near enough in peak hour times, and services areas where there is obviously no profit, which doesn’t help the bottom line, degrading central city performance.

The other huge difference was when talking about buildings. The whole of Australia has had an architectural history of just over 200 years. In Berlin, a house can be “only” 100 years old. In Australia, a 100 year old house is covered in protection acts. They also have a lot of efficient heating, solar panels on a significant portion of rooftops, and double glazing is everywhere (even on some of the trains, as far as my bad eyesight could tell). In addition, recycling was a lot better organised than in Tasmania: bins in the street were organised into 4 sections for rubbish, glass, packaging and paper. A big difference from a single bin for “rubbish”, into which is thrown everything under the sun.

I’ve tried a few new foods too. Sauerkraut was one that when placed in front of me I was a bit skeptical of, though is actually rather nice (it basically tastes like less-harsh vinegar). I’ve tried cherry-banana flavoured yoghurt and cherry-banana yoghurt soft drink, neither of which were very nice. For breakfast, new items included chocolate-covered muesli and scrambled egg spread (bought in jars from the supermarket). Last item of note was the large pretzel, which tastes exactly the same as the small pretzel I am used to. Meal structure was different too. Although occasionally using the large evening meal structure, most of the time it was a smaller evening meal and a larger lunchtime meal (which I quite enjoyed).

Overall, my trip to Berlin was brilliant. Since July last year I’ve been talking to Stephanie online through IRC, MSN, and eventually Skype, and the chance to meet her in real life was awesome (so much so, I can’t even think of decent words). As soon as I can afford to do so I’m going back there for another trip. I’ll make an effort to try and see a bit more of Germany, perhaps staying a bit longer to do so. I’ve convinced Stephanie to visit Tasmania in July, so that should be interesting too.